The penalty, which follows an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), comes just weeks before the introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will significantly increase punishments for those who break the rules.
Royal Mail sent the messages, which concerned a fall in the cost of posting parcels, last summer to 327,014 people who had opted out of direct marketing.
The ICO investigated after a complaint from one of the recipients.
Its head of enforcement, Steve Eckersley, said: “Royal Mail did not follow the law on direct marketing when it sent such a huge volume of emails because the recipients had already clearly expressed they did not want to receive them.
“These rules are there for a reason: to protect people from the irritation and, on occasions, distress nuisance emails cause. I hope this sends the message that we will take action against companies who flout them.”
The offending messages were sent on two dates last July.
Royal Mail had claimed that the emails were a service rather than marketing but the commissioner disagreed, saying the messages breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
Royal Mail apologised, and said it would be launching additional training for its staff.
A spokesman said: “We take the privacy of our customers extremely seriously.
“We are very sorry that we let some of our customers down on this occasion. Following this incident, we have tightened up our processes and governance measures still further.”
How can Gotelee help?
With GDPR coming into effect on May 25, organisations need to understand their responsibilities and be aware of the penalties in the event of a data breach.
Our lawyers can work with your business to assess the risks and find the solutions to ensure you continue to operate within the regulations.